Hett and Harper lead tournament win
The Marion Warriors boys’ basketball team won their second tournament of the year with a championship performance in the Cougar Classic on Saturday at Centre High School. They previously won the Marion Classic at home.
The Warriors never trailed the White City Huskies in the finals, but the game certainly was not anticlimactic. Marion jumped out to a 13-5 lead in the first quarter, but the Huskies 1-3-1 zone defense forced the Warriors out of their usual offensive flow.
“It was constricting our movement without the ball,” coach Jeff McMillin said after the game.
From the beginning of the second quarter on, the game turned into a grind. Marion led 20-14 at halftime, and McMillin talked to his team about striving through a difficult game.
“Sometimes you just have to find ways to win,” he said.
Marion scored first in the third quarter to increase the lead to 22-14, but White City made a run to nearly tie the game at 22-21 with a three-pointer. Jordan Hett answered with a 3-pointer of his own to extend the lead back to four.
The Warriors further increased the lead to nine points with a basket by Zac Robson and a 3-pointer by Austin Pedersen. The team went cold again the last few minutes of the quarter and led 30-23 with one quarter remaining. White City never got closer than five points in the fourth quarter, as Jacob Harper scored 10 of his game-leading 20 points in the final quarter.
Other scorers for Marion in the game were Jordan Hett, 11 points; Robson, 6; Pedersen, 3; and Taylor Heidebrecht, 2. Hett and Harper were selected to the all-tournament team.
The Warriors’ semifinal matchup against the Solomon Gorillas wasn’t nearly the grind that the final game was, but Marion still had to find ways to score difficult points. Marion trailed 17-11 after one quarter, and the game was tied at 33 at halftime.
Solomon’s Josh Burdine blocked several shots in the first quarter alone. He was also a potent scoring threat for Solomon and finished the game with 26 points. He would have had more, but McMillin found opportunities to get Burdine in foul trouble.
McMillin saw that Solomon’s players were switching on every ball screen, so he had the players Burdine was defending set ball screens for Harper and Hett. Harper and Hett were too fast on drives for Burdine to defend, and he picked up three fouls in quick succession in the second quarter, and a fourth early in the third quarter.
“One of our keys was really to limit him,” McMillin said.
Marion led 52-50 at the end of the third quarter, but Solomon tied the game at 52 early in the fourth and took a 58-55 lead. A pair of free throws by Taylor Heidebrecht tied the game at 60.
Then Hett started pouring in points. He sank a three-pointer from the top of the key after Burdine got confused on a ball screen. A runner in the lane by Hett elicited a chant of, “He’s our hero,” from the Marion student section, as the Warriors led by six with about 90 second remaining in the game.
When Harper fouled out with 1:05 left in the game, the students chanted, “Honey Badger,” a nickname referring to an animal that “just takes what it wants.”
Another runner and six free throws gave Hett 10 points in the final 90 seconds of the game. He also blocked a 3-point attempt late in the game. Marion won, 75-65.
Hett led all scorers with 35 points. Other scorers for Marion were Harper, 26; Heidebrecht, 6; Wiley Lundy, 4; Pedersen, 3; and James Jones, 1.
There were no games Tuesday. The next game for the Warriors is Friday at Council Grove.